More Blindness

About a month ago, I was talking about willful blindness, and I cited “climate change deniers, Trump supporters, and anti-vaccination activists” as examples of those who see only what they expect to see.

But let’s be fair. That self-inflicted severance from reality isn’t limited to the right wing and the lunatic fringe. There were a couple of letters to the editor in today’s Chron that make it clear as window glass* that sensible people on the left can be just as willfully blind as anyone else.

* For some values of window, anyway. Certainly clearer than our kitchen window where the cats press their noses against the glass when watching for interlopers. But I digress.

Wouldn’t it be great, one of the letter writers asks, if manufacturers of hygiene products would put together “welcome kits” for immigrants. “It seems like a win-win,” they says, suggesting that once the arrivals take up their new lives in America, they’ll be so grateful for the toothpaste and shampoo that they’ll continue to buy the same brands for life.

Sure is a nice thought. Apparently it’s escaped their notice that the administration is doing their utmost to ensure that would-be immigrants don’t leave the detention centers, unless it’s to go back where they came from–or, as best I can tell, to a small piece of America, six feet long, three feet wide, and four feet deep.

It suits the purposes of those in charge for the residents of the camps to be unwashed and unhealthy. That serves their narrative. “Look at them! Dirty and diseased. Why would you want them living next door?” How many times have we been told “They were already sick when they got here. We did the best we could, but…”?

Even if that weren’t the case; even if we assume the camp operators and those paying them have the best of intentions, how long is a hotel-sized bar of soap going to last? Not for a significant fraction of the weeks or months the typical person seeking asylum will be spending behind bars.

Then there’s the second letter.

The writer cites the self-evident fact that America has a literally unimaginable amount of wealth and asks why we can’t find “…the resources to provide basic human necessities for these tired and hungry children?”

There’s a very simple reason. The people setting the policies that deny food, medicine, and the basic rights this country once aspired to give to everyone are the same people who own the majority of that unimaginable wealth. And they control the distribution of what they don’t own.

And, yes, I realize there are exceptions, people of great wealth who don’t toe the “immigrants are scum” party line. But again, no control. They could spend every dollar they have trying to get past the barriers the administration has put up to preserve their narrative and never make a dent in the problem.

None so blind.

Look, I’m not saying anyone should give up. But ignoring the root of the problem isn’t going to solve it. (Neither is proposing solutions that require other people to do the work and put up the money, but that’s a topic for another day.)

One need look no further than the Wayfair Walkout to see how well ignoring the role of the dollar is going to work out in any venture.

Deja Vu

Apparently this country has made no progress in the last 150 years.

Back then, the big issue was the Chinese. During the gold rushes of the 1840s and after, many Chinese came to America in search of a better life. And, because life sucked so badly for so many in China, those workers who came to the US were willing to take any job at pay rates far below what white workers demanded. Corporations, seeking as always to maximize profits, actively recruited Chinese laborers and paid them as little as they could.

And millions of Chinese took those jobs because they were still better than anything they could find at home. Some of them were probably illegal immigrants, but as far as I can tell, most of them had entered the country legally.

At least until 1882, when anti-Chinese violence persuaded the government to ban all immigration from China–a ban that was renewed in 1892 and 1902.

Of course, banning further immigration didn’t do anything to improve the lot of those immigrants who were already in the country. By the mid-1880s, there were riots across the western US, most notably in Rock Springs, Wyoming Territory and Seattle, Washington.

Let me note, by the way, that when I went to school in Seattle in the 1970s and 1980s, the Seattle riot wasn’t discussed in History class. Somehow I doubt that’s changed; if anyone in the Seattle area knows differently, I’d love to hear it. Those who don’t remember history…

Anyway, the Seattle riot is noteworthy if only for the sheer pointlessness of the actions taken by the rioters. A loose coalition of labor leaders and Socialist activists rounded up 350 Chinese residents of Seattle’s Chinatown and marched them to the docks.

When the captain of the ship they chose demanded payment to carry the Chinese, the rioters passed the hat and raised funds to cover the fares. In short, roughly two hundred of the Chinese were deported. Not back to China, but down the coast to San Francisco. Arguably, the original expression of Seattle’s NIMBY spirit. As for the rioters, a confrontation with the militia resulted in serious injury to three rioters and two militiamen and the imposition of martial law, which lasted for two weeks.

So here we are, a century and a half later. We’ve got corporations fighting against minimum wage laws and a president who wants to cut off immigration, ostensibly to protect American jobs.

Deja vu, anybody?

PS: Something more cheerful tomorrow, I promise. Oh, and don’t forget that my monthly newsletter for August comes out on Monday. If you want a sneak peek at my current work in progress, sign up now!